Implant: One Question


The following sci-fi short story and sequel to Implant was written when I was a high-school senior. By this time, I was heavily influenced by the original Star Wars trilogy, original Battlestar Galactica TV series, original Doctor Who TV series, and Isaac Asimov‘s epic Foundation trilogy and Robot series.

Circuit Board (by MasterOfJedi)

Circuit Board (by MasterOfJedi)

One Question

“No… no… NO!!!” Scientor Ultis Anshoran screamed as he threw his aquamarine eyes open at the tranquil darkness of his bedroom. The celebrated cerebro-engineer hesitated in confusion and gradually realized. “What a fraccing nightmare!” he told himself.

Too lazy to switch on the panellighting that formed his bedroom ceiling, he stumbled out the door and into the kitchen. He leaned his fragile-looking hand upon one of the refrigerating unit’s buttons and the oversized opaque window suddenly became transparent, permitting the comestibles inside to be viewed.

“Frac!” he cursed loudly. “Councillor of the Academy of Modern Science, and I cannot remember to get–aaahhh–” and he slammed the refrigerator button back off.

He seized his lightly-greyed head with both his unblemished hands and squeezed it momentarily in frustration. He rubbed his eyes as he stepped into the den and emitted an audible sigh as he dropped himself into his favorite chair. Almost absent-mindedly, he switched on the holovision with the suspended remotrol and eased himself into the aerocushioned Conformatic.

“Tired of dreaming the same old dreams?” a commercial commenced, “Use Dreamaker…” and Sr. Anshoran drifted into thought. Oh, yes… My dream… What happened?… A dog?… Yes, a dog, an enormous dog, an enormous fire… surrounding me… And the dog’s barking… and I’m choking… on the smoke… It’s barking… dragging me from the flames with its teeth… But the dog’s burning… My clothes are beginning to catch fire… The dog’s still burning… But it is saving me… rescuing me… But the dog’s burning… melting… It’s dying… And suddenly the dog transforms into a person… burning… no… melting… no… no… still dying… no… no… NO!!!

He snapped back into reality with a quickened heartpace and “…Just relax, it’s Corollax,” another commercial concluded. Concentrating on remaining awake, he refocused his eyes on the clear holovision sphere situated at the center of the room. He pressed the remotrol button to elevate the volume level and then the three-dimensional picture suddenly turned to news.

“This is an IBS News Special Report. The Robotronics factory complex in the Sunview City area has been bombed. This makes the bombing of a robotics complex the third in five dekadays.

“The Spirit of Humanity organization, thought to be totally dismantled as a consequence of the heroics of the scientor Ultis Anshoran nearly three kilodays ago, has claimed total responsibility for the bombings and…”

“Not again,” Sr. Anshoran groaned. “Not the Spirit of Humanity.” Switching off the HV he closed his eyes and thought, Oh, well. I better get some rest; there ought to be another infinitely tiring Council meeting concerning these blasted Spirit bombings…

He snuggled into his Conformatic and within just a few millidays, a “Rrring! Rrring! Rrring!” pierced the quiet. He jerked his wrist to his face and glanced at the bright numbers of his Temtron timepiece.

“Frac!” It was his two-point-five-zero alarm; it was time for him to get up for work.

* * *

“Frac!” Apolla BrenSamat mouthed simultaneously in the basement that morning. Absorbed in her science project, the six-point-five-kiloday-old had remained awake since the previous night. “Why can’t this thing operate?” she exclaimed. And she dug her slender fingers into her red-tinged light-brown hair.

Retaining the same basic sizes as those of the paper-ink-and-glue “books” of perhaps two megadays ago, electrotexts surpassed them in practicability and variety. However, it was necessary to replenish their energy banks every hectoday or so. And for tens of kilodays, they remained restricted to the storage capacity of fifty literary works of an average of one million or so characters each. Apolla’s science project intended to render these electrotexts obsolete. Her “teletext” would maintain the capacity and in addition permit it to access, via radio or ultro waves, the properly adjusted compu-plex of a library, through which millions of literary works could be reached.

She began disassembling the twenty-by-fifteen-by-three-centimeter parallelopiped by first detaching the button-perforated panel. Second, she — “Atch!” — shrieked in pain at a mild burst of static electricity.

“An honor student with a 96.235 average and it requires eons for me to locate the problem with this!” She inspected the delicate internal circuitry of her teletext project and refitted the panel afterwards. “There! This ought to do it!”

Apolla switched her project on. Ever so gradually, a black spherical cloud materialized above the teletext’s projective aperture. Random letters of laser green within the fifteen-centimeter-wide cloud likewise gradually materialized. She cleared the cloud with a light touch of a button and proceeded to type the word “Access” into the black sphere.

She trembled with anticipation as her right index finger drew closer to the “Activate” button. She thought about the target “compu-plex” across the dim basement which she would hopefully access and from which she would hopefully retrieve a simple sentence. And she thought about that simple sentence which would light up in bright green characters across the black teletext sphere: “You did it!”

And she pressed “Activate.”

* * *

After the centiday drive from his home to the Academy’s main complex, Ultis Anshoran flipped off the mini-HV, struggled out of his automatic aeromobile, and breathed in the cool fresh autumn air.

Quite beautiful, he thought, And yet quite a waste. All this beautiful weather, and I spend my life away in… metalloid cubicles. An almost inhuman, almost robotic, existence… I understand the Spirit of Humanity. But their means… so contradictory to their name…

Sr. Anshoran stumbled up the flight of arcing granite steps and marched past the majestic metalloid doors. Inside, he encountered his colleague, but not necessarily friend, the young roboticist Sr. Bronsa Thax.

“Greetings, Ultis,” the roboticist said with his unattractive grin.

“Greetings, Bron,” replied Sr. Anshoran with more than a tinge of annoyance.

“Why, you look exhausted,” Sr. Thax figured, and added in an ironic note, “You should slice down on those wild parties. Hahahahaha.”

“And perhaps your lonely, neglected spouse should slice down on giving them.”

The elder scientor’s sharp sarcasm hushed Sr. Thax for the nearly one milliday they spent walking down the major corridor of the complex until the young scientor remembered to inform the elder of something.

“Pardon me, Ultis. I was told by the Prime Councillor herself to inform you that there will be a meeting–”

“Concerning the Spirit of Humanity bombings,” completed the cerebro-engineer. “Yes, I quite attained that particular conclusion on my own, thank you.”

“Held at precisely three o’day? Then if you are already informed, why did she bother to tell me–”

“When?” With a jerk, Sr. Anshoran’s lightly-grey-haired head swivelled to face the roboticist. But he managed to continue walking.

“At precisely three–”

“I heard what you said, Bron. But that is merely…” Sr. Anshoran glanced at the hexagonal face of his electronic timepiece. “…two tenths of a centiday away! Frac.” He thought, Quite a cerebral cortex, Bron, and hurried gracefully, for a thirteen-point-five-kiloday-old man, to the Council Chamber. There vanishes my nap in the office. And he chuckled to himself.

When the pair of beautifully crafted wooden doors slid fully aside, the first person to have his or her image reach the retinas of Sr. Anshoran was the Prime Councillor of the Academy of Modern Science, Calarana Fes. She greeted him from across the long elliptical shiny-white table, “Good morning, Councillor Anshoran. Quite nice of you to attend.”

“Quite,” he mumbled, clearly embarrassed.

“Pardon me?”

“Right! I said ‘Right!'” To maintain the air of a hero before the general public is one thing. However, to do so before fourteen of one’s fellow scientors is another entirely different thing. It is, in the latter case, impossible to do so without creating a relatively large negative atmosphere within the group. And it is plain foolish for one to even attempt to do so. But Sr. Ultis Anshoran was indeed a hero; he earned the “right” to maintain the air of one. This complicated matters.

“Come now, Ultis. No need to raise your voice. Take your chair and sit yourself down.” She fought off her desire to shout at him.

“Thank you, Prime Councillor,” uttered Sr. Anshoran with little if any emphasis. And he took the left of the two chairs situated farthest from the Prime Councillor.

“Now, gentlepeople,” opened the comparatively attractive Prime Councillor Calarana Fes at precisely three o’day, “we are all aware of the force which has pressured me to call the Council together… Yes, that damned Spirit of Humanity.”

Prime Councillor Fes was a proud, strong-willed and tireless woman. These characteristics enabled her to become Prime Councillor within the age of fifteen kilodays, and to keep herself in mental and physical shape during the kilodays as Prime Councillor.

Thus, although in actuality past her eighteenth kiloday, many of the Academy figured and figured misguidedly that she was fifteen kilodays old in her fourth kiloday as Prime Councillor. And they also figured misguidedly that this meant that Calarana Fes was merely eleven or twelve kilodays old when she acquired the Prime Councillorship. Those scientors, especially those women scientors, allowing themselves to be blinded to the truth by her appearance, grew to envy if not hate her for this.

But the Council did not display any such feelings as Prime Councillor Fes rose from her chair and paced characteristically along the oval of occupied chairs. She resumed, “The Spirit of Humanity has yet again struck the city’s robotics centers. Yet again, for a blasted third time! You’ve suggested and agreed to the suggestions that we produce new defense systems, trapping devices, automatic trackers, what have you, for those centers. Some of you present have even participated in the design and development of such. But what have you accomplished? Virtually nothing! We’re teetering on the razor-sharp edge of zero backing from those robotics and other companies, corporations and organizations, and you’ve been highly successful at accomplishing virtually vacuum, virtually nothing!”

Her loud bursts of vocality calmed dramatically to darker, more somber, more serious levels as she finally came full ellipse to her own chair. “The Spirit’s still out there… and to top this all off, three have been discovered dead in the suburban area south of Sunview City, the Omnilight area.”

The Council broke the fragile silence with their comments and questions, in confusion and fear. “Did I hear you correctly, Prime Councillor?” the senior member of the Council, Sr. Frommar Ovell, inquired nervously as Sr. Anshoran gasped, “What?”

“You must have, Councillor Ovell!!” the Prime Councillor answered above the decibel level of the Council’s chatter.

Whenever Prime Councillor Fes raised her voice high enough, it was understood that she desired complete quiet and the Council quieted down immediately. This time was no exception.

“As I was conveying,” she continued, still standing beside her chair, “three have been discovered dead. And I would not in the least be astonished if the Spirit were discovered to have engineered these horrible deaths. For according to the information I received earlier this morning, each death was caused by an explosion from within the skull.”

The Council refractured the silence but this time with reduced force. And quiet coalesced more swiftly as the Prime Councillor explained, “Each skull remained intact, but the explosive force was sufficient to shatter the brain.”

An awkward pause saturated the enormous, eight-walled Chamber as Sr. Anshoran gazed across the table, through the tall window, at the swaying branches and floating leaves.

He heard the fairly low and fairly firm voice of Councillor Ovell asking, “Is the source of your information certain that an external force cannot be the immediate cause of death?”

And he heard the unforgettable alto voice of Prime Councillor Fes replying, “The possibility of an external force can be eliminated. No physical marks which can be attributed to an external force sufficient to cause death, has been identified.”

But he did not listen. His mind was occupied by a growing terror. It had been growing ever since the “Holophone Incident” concerning Sr. Trand Dallen, nearly three kilodays ago. However, he became completely conscious of it only with Prime Councillor Fes’ mentioning of “an explosion from within the skull.” He thought in an almost terrified state, Oh, my celebrated invention, my splendid Implant, my Automatic Physio-monitor Implant, my Appy, could this be it? Even the strongest  of diamonds must have at least one cleavage point. Could you have been faulty for some reason? Could it be your one weakness? If it is, this could be it.

However, the world must not forget the services you have done it: monitoring hospital patients like no previous mechanism ever could, monitoring non-patients kilometers from the hospital, monitoring for any critical alteration in anyone’s physical condition, and thus saving lives. They must not forget.

However, could this be your weakness? Then again, the odds for three deaths in one morning for such a weakness, if it is a weakness, must be infinitesimally thin. But is there a weakness? My Appy, could this be it? I must find out the truth. I must. Is there a weakness? If there is, what is it? What?…

* * *

The young Omnilight Secondary School student was able to acquire her first peaceful share of sleep in nearly a dekaday. She finally completed the demonstration portion — the most important portion — of her science project.

In a little over half a deciday ago, she pressed “Activate.” And within microdays, a simple sentence lit up in bright green characters across the black teletext sphere: “YOU DID IT!” She covered her open mouth with her small smooth hands. And she giggled in both surprise and excitement as additional characters appeared: “YES, YOU DID IT, MY LITTLE APPLE. YOU HAVE EARNED YOURSELF A DEFINITE A+ AND A DEFINITE PLACE IN HISTORY. ~DAD.”

Apolla could not restrain herself any longer and laughed out loud in joy. She had accomplished what she had set out to accomplish and her father even secretly punched in additional words of congratulations, programmed to light up when she had done so.

What a dad! she thought, And he called me Apple.

“Apple,” the nickname given to her by her father, the successful astrotect Hevet BrenSamat, was derived from her own name of Apolla. And whenever he called her that, it indicated to her that he loved her very much; it was his own way of saying “I love you” without actually saying it. This hint of shyness in her Dad was what she loved most about him, and consequently she unconsciously searched for this type of “shyness hint” in young men.

She retained her beautiful beaming smile as she quietly electro-corded the technical details of the joyous occasion in her “Project’s Progress” journal: from the late-night sparks and spills of the previous day to the early-morning unexpected message, provided by her father, of this day. And after silently switching off her equipment, and carefully replacing the cover-shield over her teletext, she happily returned to her bedroom two stories above. She giggled easily as she electro-penned down her thoughts and feelings in her personal Diary. She relived the moment, imagined her Dad secretly typing in his message, and wondered how her Mom would react when she discovered what he did.

Apolla BrenSamat would never forget these past few decidays. And once in bed, she slept satisfied.

* * *

There was no school that morning, which was quite fortunate for Apolla. However, she had knowledge of this. Or else she definitely would not have remained awake until 2.71 and slept past lunch until 6.75.

When she awoke to the trembling sound of her little brother Hevard’s mini-holovision, she was in too contented a mood to curse at him. Instead, she herself trembled as she hurried down the arcing flight of steps to tell her parents her incredible news.

However, she did not find them. And she was disappointed to discover that the time was only 6.76; they were still at work. She thought, Oh, they’ll be home in less than three centidays, and plopped herself into the den’s amply-cushioned couch, the nearest piece of furniture she found on which she could comfortably wait for her parents. And while I’m waiting here, I might as well put on the HV.

The quadraphonic speaker system blasted intensely until Apolla found the volume button on the remotrol and adjusted the sound. Hevard, you little…, she began yelling in her mind, but left her thought incomplete when the news grasped her attention: “…found dead in the Omnilight area early this morning…”

“The Omnilight area?” she spoke to herself in astonishment.

“…They have been identified,” the newsperson continued, “as Omnilight residents, but no motives and no means for the deaths have been completely determined.

“The Spirit of Humanity has not claimed responsibility for the deaths and consequently, few experts believe the organization is behind them. Instead, many experts are concerned that an even more organized and perhaps even more radical group is responsible.”

“More radical than the Spirit?” Apolla again uttered to herself.

“…Furthermore, the Academy of Modern Science refused to release new and possibly more detailed information regarding the deaths. However,…”

Suddenly, the door bell signaled with a harsh electronic buzz. As she glided quickly to the door, anticipating her parents’ return, the den HV continued, “…the well-known creator of the Implant, Sr. Anshoran was on hand…”

The door bell activated the porch scanner, and upon reaching the door, Apolla glanced at the miniature holographic image of the front porch. She recognized immediately the two three-dimensional images of her parents but failed to identify the third image standing between her parents and the door. Hesitating, she finally pressed the button which activated the door to slide swiftly into the hollow wall.

The news resumed, “….to give a brief interview concerning the matter,” and then the holovision produced the miniature scene of Sr. Anshoran surrounded by a sea of newspeople at Academy Square. He was struggling to his aeromobile as the mass of news reporters, photographers, and camera people traveled with him.

Once the door slid completely aside, Apolla found that the third image which she observed was that of the well-respected Investigator. Not to be confused with the analogous Government Investigations Agent, the Investigator served the Scientific Community by protecting the products of scientific advancement from unfriendly Governmental hands as well as protecting the security of the Community itself. Apolla’s impression of an Investigator was that of a cool, quiet, clean-cut and incredibly attractive man.

But her impression was scratched if not shattered as the Investigator, disguised in the highly-colored attire of the most recent fashion wave, spoke.

“Apolla BrenSamat?” the Investigator began.

“Yes,” Apolla answered.

“I am Investigator Primara Arssul.” The young and moderately pretty Investigator wrenched her identification cards from within her sparkling blue coat and showed them to Apolla.

On the holovision, the reporters hurled more and more questions at the cerebro-engineer. “Sr. Anshoran, do you believe the Spirit is behind these Omnilight deaths?” one reporter hurled.

“Not quite,” was his annoyed response.

“Is it certain the three deaths are related?” another reporter hurled.

“Quite.”

“Could your Implants have prevented the deaths?” a rather large man hurled.

“No comment.”

“Ah.” The left brow of the same large man rose. “Could they be the cause of them?”

“No comment. And no further questions, please!” Sr. Anshoran’s firm voice sounded. But his firm voice did not reflect his mental state. Questions and doubts flooded his muddled mind. And possible answers only aggravated the muddle. However, one gnawing thought dominated all others. One thought. One question. …Could this be it?… Could this be it?…

* * *

Once Ir. Primara Arssul and Apolla’s parents stepped inside, Apolla inquired in confusion, “W-what is going on?”

Her father drew closer to her and said in his soothing voice, “Don’t worry, Apolla.” She turned to her mother and met her loving but fearful gaze.

Apolla reiterated her question with a growing fear within her, “What is going on?”

The Investigator gently replied, “Apolla, you have been linked to the deaths of the three Omnilight residents.”

Apolla dropped open her small mouth in disbelief and suddenly became unaware of the Investigator and of her parents. The words of the Investigator echoed in her swirling mind, Linked, linked, linked… deaths, deaths, deaths… residents, residents, residents… Apolla, Apolla, Apolla… The echoes appeared to vanish for an eternity as a sense of emptiness saturated her mind. Emptiness. However, one dim thought penetrated the emptiness; one dim but relevant thought now dominated her mind. One dim but intensifying thought. One question. …How could this be?… How could this be?…

* * *

Notes

Obviously, I didn’t have a chance to conclude the mystery. But I still remember the intent.

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